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To Play the King 

Francis Urquhart, the unscrupulous but cunning Conservative Prime Minister, has his survival threatened by a liberal monarch and an upcoming General Election.

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Series cast summary:
Ian Richardson ...  Francis Urquhart 4 episodes, 1993
Michael Kitchen ...  The King 4 episodes, 1993
Kitty Aldridge ...  Sarah Harding 4 episodes, 1993
Colin Jeavons ...  Tim Stamper 4 episodes, 1993
Diane Fletcher Diane Fletcher ...  Elizabeth Urquhart 4 episodes, 1993
Nicholas Farrell ...  David Mycroft 4 episodes, 1993
Rowena King ...  Chloe Carmichael 4 episodes, 1993
Leonard Preston Leonard Preston ...  John Stroud 4 episodes, 1993
Erika Hoffman Erika Hoffman ...  The Lady 4 episodes, 1993
Jack Fortune Jack Fortune ...  Ken Charterhouse 4 episodes, 1993
Nick Brimble ...  Corder 4 episodes, 1993
Bernice Stegers ...  Princess Charlotte 3 episodes, 1993
David Ryall ...  Sir Bruce Bullerby 3 episodes, 1993
Pip Torrens ...  Andrew Harding 3 episodes, 1993
Frederick Treves ...  Lord Quillington 3 episodes, 1993
Tom Beasley Tom Beasley ...  Young Prince / ... 3 episodes, 1993
Don Warrington ...  Graham Gaunt 3 episodes, 1993
Paula Tilbrook Paula Tilbrook ...  Speaker 3 episodes, 1993
John Bird John Bird ...  Bryan Brynford-Jones 2 episodes, 1993
Kate Ricketts Kate Ricketts ...  Current Affairs Lady 2 episodes, 1993
Merelina Kendall ...  Hilda Cordwainer 2 episodes, 1993
Anthony Smee Anthony Smee ...  John Staines 2 episodes, 1993
John Paul Connolly John Paul Connolly ...  Sturdy Beggar 2 episodes, 1993
Soo Drouet Soo Drouet ...  Big Woman 2 episodes, 1993


Francis Urquhart, the unscrupulous but cunning Conservative Prime Minister, has his survival threatened by a liberal monarch and an upcoming General Election. Written by Dragan Antulov <dragan.antulov@altbbs.fido.hr>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Release Date:

8 October 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

To Play the King See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


(4 parts)

Sound Mix:



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Did You Know?


Emma Bunton (the future "Baby Spice") has a tiny speaking part as a prostitute in Episode 2. See more »


[last lines]
Francis Urquhart: You do trust me don't you? Yes, of course you do.
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the credits Ian Richardson is shown in close up saying "God save the King" See more »


Referenced in Drama Connections: House of Cards (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

Some elements feel a bit familiar but it remains enjoyably cynical and droll in its writing
5 October 2014 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Following his appointment as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Francis Urquhart is rather plagued by guilt over the actions that got him there, while at the same time lacking a challenge to stimulate him in the way his political rivalries once did. This changes as the new King of England decides to throw his social conscience into the political ring, and as FU takes on a new 'slave' to inspire him and to tutor. The King's simplistic sentimentalizing of the plight of the poor leads FU to perhaps underestimate him, while he also remains unaware of the presence of a tape of his rooftop meeting that ended the previous series.

There is a certain meanness and cynicism in this BBC film that is perhaps lacking in the US version, and this second part of the House of Cards trilogy continues with that. The viewer remains drawn into FU's world and decisions in a way where we are confronted by his cold maneuvering, and this continues throughout the episodes. This time the opponent is the new King – a very thinly veiled version of Prince Charles; the reality of this power struggle is perhaps not totally convincing, but to be fair the previous episodes were fine to play up the cynicism in return for giving up a bit of realism. The plot plays out quite nicely, although it must be said that the show does benefit from only having 4 episodes and not the longer run that the US version has.

Outside of this, the series does rather repeat the model of the previous serial in that it places a young woman in FU's circle, sees an influential Afro-Caribbean woman playing a key role and also has a vulnerable male press role. It does have a certain familiarity to it, although mostly it does work on its own rights. The various plot twists and turns do not always convince; in particular the frequent bombings and the fate of some characters and devices go a little further than fits even the internal logic, but these are held together by the consistent spirit of meanness it has. A big part of that is Richardson's performance, which is attractive while also being repellant – much like his to-camera discussions which challenge the viewer to judge him. Equally good are Kitchen, Aldridge, King, and Farrrell – albeit that they have shadows of the previous series in their characters. Jeavons plays it well so that he builds from his position gradually and in a way that makes sense.

Generally the series works well because of how nicely scripted it is with a cynicism that applies across the political spectrum of all those involved. This is delivered with a certain drollness and a narrative that engages even if aspects of it feel repeated from the previous series.

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